This is my draft letter so far, i may or may not send something similar to this.
Dear Childrens Comissioner,Independent Safeguarding Authority
I am very interested in knowing your position on the new law regarding the vetting scheme for people who work/volunteer/have contact with children. This law affects Wales and the children of Wales- as children’s commissioner you work to champion the rights and promote the welfare of all children in Wales.
I am interested to know whether or not you have had the opportunity to make a press or media statement about this important issue.
I would like to start with the statement that upholding the welfare of children in the community inherently means upholding the welfare of the community
The new scheme has a number of flaws. The size and inevitable insecurity of the proposed database (1 in 4 adults- 11 million people) is a certain difficulty. The vetting system of regular contact (defined as 3 contacts a month) and its condition for inclusion (such as giving your kids friends a lift to a football game) are again poorly exacted ideas. These figures and examples were presented in a recent news program.The Excuse
The reason the agencies are extending their field of reach is, as they claimed on a news program, because abusers are becoming cleverer in gaining access to children.
Rightfully the point was made that actually most abusers are relatives to the child. And as asked on the news, does this mean that grandparents will have to be vetted too? You see, this scheme is not a well-thought out scheme. It is more than apparent that if this scheme does go ahead the next logical step would be to vet relatives and eventually parents- the scheme wouldn’t make sense without that progression- but of course that would be unacceptable.Implication
The implication of the proposed and impending scheme is a society that has impeded trust- and it will ultimately squeeze society into a dysfunctional
entity. This scheme welcomes mistrust between people in society- people will feel suspected and be suspected by others unjustifiably, with their intentions questioned by the government in an intrusive way. If I thought that the scheme would benefit children in a significant way then an intrusive compromise would be justified. We must ask ourselves, How much do we gain? How much do we lose?The Big Question
What we really want to ask ourselves is will this scheme make the children safer? Will it improve their quality of life?
I am afraid that most people would agree with me and say no, although I can only speak for myself. I am the teen coordinator of an internet site committed to preventing, healing, and eliminating all forms of sexual victimisation of boys and men through support, treatment, research, education, advocacy, and activism (MaleSurvivor.org). The site is part of a larger mainly American based international charity and support organisation with professional standing in the John Jay School of criminal law, New York. I am actively involved with survivors of CSA and have met many survivors and professionals in the field, and have helped to lead a workshop within the UK. I believe, and have discussed with some colleagues, that this attempt to somehow corner the abuser is not only poorly directed but not an effective approach. Effort and energy could be better directed to tackle this important issue. Protecting children from sexual abuse is not only about denying abusers opportunity for access (a determined abuser can always get access), it is about education and other preventative steps. As already mentioned, “stranger danger” is an inaccurate emphasis (professionals agree on this), and much abuse occurs in the home. The Excuse
is therefore, to anybody working closely in the field of CSA, clearly quite foolish. It could
be asked, is the real intention monetary? (there is to be a charge of around £65 to be vetted, and a fine of £5000 for noncompliance. If you are employed to work with children you must pay this one-off fee. Volunteers do not have to pay this fee).
I asked you a moment ago, Will it improve their quality of life?
The news program suggests that the ultimate effect will be fewer volunteers (due to increased suspicion hindering good will), which will jeopardise many organisations. There will be more kids with nothing to do on the streets and they will be easier targets. Abuse is a huge problem, but we need to employ effective and not destructive strategies
to fight this. Is vetting a dad who gives his sons friends a lift to football practice destructive? I think so. The government and ISA seem out of touch and this worries me. I am surprised to see that Sir Roger Singleton CBE, who is the chair at ISA (and has served on public inquiries into child abuse in children’s homes) does not realize the flaw in this master plan
. The board members also have good and varied credentials so this failure implies that the scheme has superimposed objectives (influence is not predominantly child protection).ISA Background
The project motive was the case of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells- murdered by Ian Huntley (a school caretaker) in 2002. The Bichard Inquiry looked at the way employers recruit people to work with children and vulnerable adults.
The result was a single agency to vet all individuals who want to work or volunteer with vulnerable people- ISA. My fear with this apparent “safeguard” is whether or not this pretense of security will make it easier for authorities to overlook the reality of where and how most abuse cases occur? I find myself frustrated to see so much professional misdirection when the field of CSA is making so much progress.Media Responsibilities and creating controversy
ISA policy is not being represented fairly by current news programs. Much of the claims and accusations on the news are not in accordance with ISA policy. These contradictions will lead people to feel concerned and a clear unbiased view needs to be presented to assure the welfare of children in the community.
The news presents the vetting list as one that effectively works by rule of “guilty by accusation”. In other words the database works with both hard and soft intelligence. It was stated that if a colleague thinks you are acting strangely he can report you and you will be barred on the list (and will not be allowed to work with children). It was stated that the person who is barred may not even be told why he is not allowed to work with children.
ISA defends itself with its policy on malicious allegations. “The ISA gives assurances that allegations will never, of themselves, lead to automatic inclusion in the ISA Barred Lists. Before a barring decision is made, the individual will be given the information on which the decision is based, and will be given the opportunity to explain their case. It is emphasised that it is a serious offence to make a malicious referral with an intention to mislead. A person found guilty of this may be subject to defamation and damages claims. Criminal sanctions, which include offences related to wasting police time, perverting or attempting to pervert the course of justice, conspiracy and perjury, could also apply.” http://www.gcc-uk.org/files/page_file/In...ote_27Jan09.pdf
I hope you are able to put some of my concerns to rest and hope you are able to present the official opinion of your office on this issue, and importantly how effective you believe this scheme will be.